Conference Agenda

Overview and details of the sessions of this conference. Please select a date or location to show only sessions at that day or location. Please select a single session for detailed view (with abstracts and downloads if available).

Session Overview
JS_RN04_RN13_03: Parental interpretations of children's 'best interests'
Wednesday, 21/Aug/2019:
4:00pm - 5:30pm

Session Chair: Cath Larkins, University of Central Lancashire
Location: GM.333
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Geoffrey Manton, Third Floor 4 Rosamond Street West Off Oxford Road

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Best for the Child and the Mother? Infant Feeding Decisions in Spain

Marta Dominguez Folgueras

Sciences Po, France

The WHO describes breastfeeding as « the normal way of providing young infants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth », and recommends breastfeeding exclusively on-demand for the baby’s first six months. Breastfeeding is recommended as the best for the child, and this recommendation is often framed under the “risk paradigm”. However, it ultimately depends on mothers’ bodies and preferences. The literature has shown that whereas some women find breastfeeding enjoyable and empowering, others experience it as negative and feel more empowered when they use formula.

When making decisions about infant feeding, mothers need to take into account their individual interest as well as the baby’s, and their decisions are socially situated. This is the starting point of this research. I analyze women’s experience and decisions about infant feeding, and try to disentangle the different definitions of the child’s and mother’s best interests and how they are (re)constructed by mothers depending on social factors. I use data from a longitudinal project that carried out semi-structured interviews with 58 women in Spain. Women were interviewed during pregnancy (in 2011) and again when their babies were 18 months old (in 2013). Almost all women intended to breastfeed their children but they ended up following different feeding strategies (from exclusive formula feeding to long-term breastfeeding). The role of relevant experts, as well as mother’s relationship with the labor market emerge as key factors that mediate mothers’ definition of what’s best for them and their children. Surprisingly, the role of socioeconomic background did not appear as significant in the interviews.

Contingent Care: Motherhood, Citizenship And Social Reproduction Across Difference

Rachel Humphris

University of Birmingham, United Kingdom

This paper brings feminist perspectives on public/private space and home studies into dialogue with scholarship on urban encounters through the notion of ‘home encounter’. Drawing on 14 months participant observation with more than 200 Romanian Roma families in the UK, the article traces how the (re)production of difference operates within child welfare home visits through the notion of appropriate motherhood, ‘safeguarding’ and the ‘best interests of the child’. The home can exacerbate perceived differences, becoming a painful site of exclusion but it can also allow migrant mothers to purchase a form of social belonging through hosting. The article argues that migration regulations and welfare changes are affecting and reconfiguring the most intimate spaces of migrant’s family lives. The home becomes a site for both the contestation and reproduction of racialized and classed understandings of motherhood, citizenship and social reproduction. Home encounters demonstrate the significance of private space and notions of appropriate parenting to understanding how diversity is governed and heightens the urgency of a gendered and spatialized lens to notions of intercultural encounters across difference.

What’s Best for the Child? Parents Decisions on the Treatment of Children’s Variations of Sex Development (VSD) in France

Gaëlle Larrieu

Sciences Po, France

People with a VSD are born with variations in sex characteristics -including chromosomes, gonads, genitals or sex hormones- that do not fit the typical definitions of male or female bodies. In recent years, conflict has arisen over the early surgery performed on newborns and children, and more generally about the management of VSD and the role of parents, children, and medical experts. This issue has become the interest of international organizations and policy makers.

When a child is diagnosed with a VSD, early intervention is often required, and parents are asked to make decisions in their child’s best interest. Previous sociological studies have considered this issue from a theoretical perspective, but his paper contributes to the literature by focusing on parents’ personal experience when managing their children’s VSD. How do parents interpret their child’s best interests? How do they make decisions regarding surgery, gender assignation, and the implication of the child in the process? In which actors do they put their trust?

This research is based on more than twenty in-depth interviews with French parents of children with a VSD, various meeting with doctors and associations, as well as an examination of documents produced by associations and medical experts. The empirical analysis shows that parents find themselves in a state of uncertainty when their child is diagnosed with a VSD, and are required to make long-term decisions within a few weeks. Parents often have trouble evaluating their child’s best interest and lean on doctors to define it. The study unveils three key factors that mediate parents’ behaviour: Previous family experiences, medical and scientific knowledge, and socioeconomic background.